If you have osteoporosis or you've had a hip fracture, calcium should play an important role in your diet. Calcium and vitamin D can help prevent further bone loss and lower your risk for fractures if you fall again.
Nutrition: The first step
Calcium can help prevent repeated fractures in older women who have had vertebral (backbone) fractures. Dairy products, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, are the best sources of calcium. It is also found in green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.
Am I getting enough calcium?
The daily amount of calcium experts recommend for healthy adults is:
- 1,200 mg for women ages 51 to 70
- 1,000 mg for men ages 51 to 70
- 1,200 mg for men and women ages 71 and older
If you have 3 servings of dairy products and at least 2 cups of green, leafy vegetables each day, then you probably get enough calcium.
What about vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D from fortified dairy products and cereals and fatty fish like salmon. It is also included in many calcium supplements.
The daily amount of vitamin D experts recommend for healthy people is:
- 600 IU (international units) for ages 1 to 70
- 800 IU for ages 71 and older
Should I take calcium supplements?
If you don't eat many calcium-rich foods, are lactose intolerant, or have another intestinal problem, you may not be getting enough calcium. Ask your doctor if you need to take a calcium supplement.
If you take supplements:
- Look for one with both calcium and vitamin D.
- Spread your calcium intake throughout the day. Your body can absorb only 500 mg at one time.
- Don't take more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day.
Work out a plan with your doctor
Ask your doctor if a calcium supplement is right for you. Find out how much calcium and vitamin D it should contain. If you have osteoporosis, you may also need to take medication to prevent further bone loss.
Created on 07/02/2007
Updated on 06/15/2011
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary supplement fact sheet: calcium.
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. Calcium: what you should know.
- Saag KG, Geusens P. Progress in osteoporosis and fracture prevention: focus on postmenopausal women. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2009;11:251.